Mobility eases talent shortages

Global talent breeds innovation

During the recent recession, business and government leaders took their eyes off perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Canadian economy — an aging workforce.

Canada’s workforce is marching towards retirement. Over the next eight to 10 years, there will be a significant shortage of skilled workers.

“The global economy is approaching a demographic shock of a scale not observed since the Middle Ages,” says the World Economic Forum in its March 2010 report Stimulating Economies through Fostering Talent Mobility. “Governments, companies, international organizations and educators should collaborate on a systematic basis to address the talent shortages and encourage innovation through redesigned talent mobility.”

But during the economic downturn, little was done to address fundamental issues with Canada’s training and education systems that might soften the impact of the situation — though other countries such as the United Kingdom are taking action to improve skills and productivity.

The traditional sources of immigration in recent years, notably China and India, are facing their own talent shortages, something that will only worsen as the great rebalancing unfolds and economic growth shifts from West to East. As those economies strengthen and a middle class emerges, there will be increasing demand for professional and service industry workers.

“If nothing changes, by 2026, one in every eight jobs in the country will go unfilled,” says Royal Bank of Canada CEO Gordon Nixon.

Almost all (97 per cent) CEOs say having the right talent is the most critical factor for business success, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year. And 81 per cent of millennials (those born after 1980) want to work outside of Canada to gain global experience. As a result, the report forecasts a 50-per-cent growth in the number of global assignments by 2020.

At a policy level, governments and businesses must work together to understand the challenges of the labour market in a systematic manner and develop a long-term economic immigration policy that meets those needs. Canada must establish a national skills assessment plan to assess and anticipate current and future skills shortages, and then develop a national immigration program to help address shortages.

Equally important are Canada’s tax policies. These consistently rank as one of the top four challenges when managing international assignments, according to a survey by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council. Canada’s income tax policies should be designed to support and encourage greater mobility of the workforce. The country should also look for progressive policies that permit portability of social security benefits, pensions and other benefits.

Canada must enter into more multilateral and bilateral agreements with other countries to enable easier mobility of talent. That would mean professional passports and working visas that can be issued efficiently and without delay, reciprocity of professional licensing and certification with other partner jurisdictions.

On the domestic front, more harmonization is needed among the provinces to encourage and promote greater mobility in Canada.

Canada is a trading nation and as the economic balance swings to the East, so too will the new opportunities for trade and commerce. To take advantage of these new opportunities, companies need to adopt a robust global assignment policy. Globally experienced talent breeds innovation, which in turn creates economic growth and success. Such a departure from the traditional model of assignment management, where little planning took place for the assignment and eventual repatriation of the employee, requires integration of mobility into talent management strategies. Talent planning and management must have greater input and leadership at the CEO level.

In the days ahead talented employees will be in very high demand, not just from Canadian companies but around the world. Talent mobility should be managed just like any other form of capital.

Stephen Cryne is president and CEO of the Canadian Employee Relocation Council, which is hosting a symposium of top employers and government representatives to discuss future talent needs and the role talent mobility can play in addressing those needs on Nov. 17, 2010. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CERC. He can be reached at [email protected].

Plan of Action

Labour market challenges

Priorities for business:

• Talent planning and mobility must be aligned and become integral to business strategy.

• Talent planning and mobility must have greater input at the CEO level of the organization.

• Talent mobility must be managed like any other form of capital.

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